St. Seraphim of Sarov, a 19th century mystic and canonized saint in the Russian Orthodox Church, instructed one his disciples that the overall goal of the spiritual life was the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. Yes, living in the Spirit and letting the Spirit come alive in us is what it’s all about. We could also say that the goal of the spiritual life is to live in freedom, and where the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of freedom is there is freedom.
As St. Paul writes in his second letter to the Corinthians, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”1 Paul also writes to the Galatians, “For freedom Christ has come to set us free.”2 To
live in Christ and his Spirit is to live in true FREEDOM. It is to be free from the yoke of the law or from any new law that is not the Holy Spirit. For St. Thomas Aquinas, the New Law of Christ, of the Gospel, IS the Holy Spirit.3
We were created for freedom because we are created in the image of God. In a sense, we were created “like-gods” with of course a small “g”. It is our intellects and wills that make us like unto God; we have a soul, a spiritual life and it is the intellect and will which are the highest powers of our soul. It is our intellect that knows and it is our will that chooses. The more we know the Truth and choose the Good in love, the freer we become – where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. This forces each of us to ask: AM I FREE?
It is of course sin which keeps us from being free, sin which keeps us from life in God, life in the Spirit. It is grace, then, which defeats sin, brings us into relationship with God, and makes us free. As St. Augustine liked to
say, “Grace heals our wounded nature.”4 There is then a necessary correlation between grace and freedom. One cannot be truly free without the free gift of sanctifying grace by the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.
God is always willing our freedom – i.e., life in him. Christ calls us to freedom and sets us free, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
In Christ we are made free in God, and made, as St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans, “children of God, and if children then heirs.”5 We live our lives of freedom in God not only as saved children of God but as heirs of the Kingdom of God that experience the Divine Life here and now. We are being forged now, like silver in the furnace, to be ever more holy, to experience the Kingdom in the here and now, and to prepare ourselves to enter into the fullness of the Kingdom and eternal life. We encounter and grow in this life of freedom, this life of grace, this life in the Spirit, through the sacramental life of the Church, through our own personal prayer life, and our through our free choice to love God and our neighbor. Every moment, no matter how mundane or ordinary, bears the freedom to accept the grace to be a disciple of Christ. If then we are true disciples of the Lord we will, as Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John, “know the Truth and the Truth shall set us free.”
Lord, may we be caught up in the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of freedom and so bring all whom we encounter into the freedom that frees from all sin and makes us free to love as he first loved us.